The questions Wednesday night ranged from potholes to bus fares, from school-day hours to traffic-aide layoffs. But nothing roused the crowd like the city’s 165 tax-increment-financing districts, which draw off half-a-billion property-tax dollars a year for economic development.
About 700 people overflowed a gym at Malcolm X College on Chicago’s West Side for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s second public meeting on a city budget gap he says will top $635 million.
Ashley Moy-Wooten of the Chicago-based Grassroots Collaborative told the mayor too many TIF dollars have gone to big companies like United Airlines.
“Would you commit to not giving any money to these giant corporations?” she asked, provoking the evening’s biggest round of applause. “And would you commit to shutting down these downtown TIFs?”
Emanuel made no promises but said it was “wrong” for the big companies to get TIF funds when neighborhoods were suffering. “I can’t reverse the past,” the mayor added. “I have to shape the future. That’s why I created a new standard that we finally have.”
Emanuel said a TIF overhaul proposed this week by a panel he appointed would bring more transparency and jobs.
The 90-minute forum followed a similar event Monday evening at Kennedy-King College on the city’s South Side.